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Restitution awards based on victims’ say-so affirmed

State v. Damien Farold Robinson, 2018AP259-CR, District 1, 10/30/18 (not recommended for publication); case activity (including briefs)

Robinson challenges some of the restitution ordered to reimburse two burglary victims for repairing the damage caused by Robinson’s forcible entry. The court rejects his arguments that there was insufficient evidence about the costs of repair and the reasonableness of the costs.

One victim’s submission asked for $300 for a replacement door not covered by insurance, but didn’t provide documentation as to why insurance didn’t cover it. Not necessary, says the court; the victim didn’t testify, but her bare written submission was enough to the satisfy the preponderance standard given the trial court found the claim to be credible. And the credibility finding implicitly included a finding the amount was reasonable. Nor was it necessary for the trial court to know the value of the door actually damaged by the burglary and order restitution in that amount only, as § 973.20(2)(b)(intro.) allows restitution for “reasonable repair or replacement.” (¶¶4, 10, 12).

The trial court speculated the replacement door may have cost more than the insurance payout because it was a “stronger,” more secure door than the one it replaced, but there was zero evidence that was true. The court of appeals agrees the trial court was speculating, but rejects the argument that this speculation means the restitution order for the door is an erroneous exercise of discretion, apparently because there are sufficient reasons supporting the trial court’s decision. It also says that if the trial court did order the restitution under the belief the victim bought a stronger door, that would be in keeping with the cases allowing restitution for items the victim buys to enhance security (like a new dead bolt or alarm system). (¶¶4, 11). This is an odd thing to say; that the item might be justified if there was evidence in the record to support it doesn’t alter the fact that there was not any evidence.

The second victim asked for $535.37 for the cost of securing her door immediately after the burglary. Robinson says this was excessive and unreasonable, as the work apparently didn’t involve much more than having the door temporarily boarded up. (¶5). But the victim testified she paid that amount and submitted an invoice to support it; while she felt she was overcharged, she needed the door boarded up for safety purposes. That’s enough to justify the restitution order. (¶13).

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